Volume 93, Issue 5

Friday, June 11, 1999


Throw another fastball on the barby

Howling good time at the Werewolves opener

Women's hockey sharpening their blades and kicking some serious ice

Game of lacrosse keeps netting fans

Millenium moment

Women's hockey sharpening their blades and kicking some serious ice

By Chad Thompson
Gazette Staff

"She shoots, she scores" is becoming a common phrase for hockey fans everywhere.

Since the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan, women's hockey has begun to receive increased popularity and notoriety. Shelley Coolidge, manager of female development at the Canadian Hockey Association cites the television exposure at the Olympics as a contributing factor.

"In Canada and the United States, there has been an increased number of women players," she said. "There is now over 9,000 players in Canada."

Heather Ahearn, coordinator of media and public relations at the United States Hockey Association, said the growth of women's hockey has been strong. "We have seen a 800 per cent increase from 1990 to 1997-98," she said. "Since the Olympics, player registration has increased 26 per cent."

Karen Hughes, head coach of the University of Toronto Varsity Blues and assistant coach to Canada's national team, agreed women's hockey has come a long way. "There was a large growth of women players in the '80s – now a lot of those girls are going to university and want to play hockey."

Hughes added women's hockey has existed at U of T since 1921 and the team has always had great support from their athletic department.

All three agreed women's hockey has helped break down misconceptions about women in sports. "Women's hockey has given more opportunities to female athletes," Coolidge said. "It has become more acceptable for women to take part in athletics and be fit."

"1996 was a breakthrough year for athletics," Ahearn added. "The [Women's National Basketball Association] was a precedent for women's teams and women's hockey is going the same way. In 20 years, you will see women players who have played women's hockey all their life rather than having to play in men's leagues like today."

"All women's sport have aided in breaking down stereotypes of female athletes," Hughes stated. "It is a lot different now than back in the '70s."

As far as the future of women's hockey, Coolidge speculated the growth of the sport will continue, but the possibility of a league like the WNBA is still a few years away.

"The momentum will continue to grow," Coolidge said. "The sky's the limit as far opportunity for women's hockey. There has been talk about a league but we have to get a deep enough talent pool first."

Ahearn said although she believes a national women's hockey league may be in the future, the timing of such is unknown. "After the Salt Lake City Olympics there maybe something out there if the talent pool in North America continues to expand. World-wide countries are improving but Canada, the [United States] and Finland are still the top teams. Sweden is getting better and China is concentrating on player development."

"Women's hockey is closer to the junior level like the [Ontario Hockey League], not a professional level," Hughes said. "The base of talented players is increasing but still needs to get better. Hockey is continuing to become a global game but a lot of teams are behind the U.S. and Canada but are closing the gap."

Coolidge, Ahearn and Hughes all agreed women's hockey will continue to grow and the players will receive the recognition they deserve.

"These girls are real role models," Coolidge said. "They help the game and help inspire girls to play sports."

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Copyright The Gazette 1999